Friday, February 27, 2009

Surely you're as tired of me as I am

Once again, I find myself in the position of having to thank all of you for your kind words, thoughts, prayers, offers of help, encouragement, and overall matching sentiment regarding the latest crap sandwich entry of our life. Also once again, I freely acknowledge that another day or two of pouting, sulking, and licking my wounds in general should be enough .... then I'll make an earnest attempt to re-join civilization with a better attitude. Or in other words, answer my phone and respond to e-mails and basically behave like a human being without a ginormous chip on my shoulder.

Brayden came home from school today running a fever and with what is probably strep throat. Considering she is the one child of mine who would go to school carrying her severed head in a bag rather than foil her attempt at perfect attendance for the year, I knew when she voluntarily went to the nurse that she didn't feel well, for realsies. Having her home with me today wasn't any trouble at all, but it meant I was unable to visit much with Blaine after his consultation appointment, let alone attend it with him. Actually, I hadn't planned on attending the appointment regardless because we were under the impression it was a quickie appointment to simply schedule his next cat scan.

Naturally, we were wrong.

And because Blaine is a man, and therefore doesn't feel the need to ask a bazillion questions like I would and hash everything to death with the doctor, I am left with an overall feeling of "what the heck is happening here ....... " Of course, I've felt that way just a little bit ever since his first diagnosis -- SIX FREAKING YEARS AGO -- so really, what's new?

Here's what we know:

1. The last round of radiation did work. Or at least seems to have worked. The three tumors they hit this past fall all appear dormant on the pet scan. That's the good news --- We'll take blessings any place we can get it.

2. Two new spots lit up on the scan. (this is the bad news, in case you weren't sure ..... )

One showed up during the scan at the base of the tongue, but because he ain't got no spit, his throat reflexively moves a lot involuntarily. The doctors suspected the spot on the scan indicated movement instead of tumor. I guess during a scan you are instructed to lie perfectly still (I've never had one ... in fact, the closest I've come is probably lying in a tanning bed ....) and if you don't lie perfectly still, any movement will trigger a flare on the scan. While I was in the office, and doing my valiant best to portray myself as a loving, concerned wife whose primary goal in life is to support my husband, I watched as the doctor ran a camera up his nose and through his nasal cavity and then down his throat to look at the back of his tongue ... quite frankly, it was disgusting and I thought seriously about heaving. But the good news was the tongue looked all clear. (ugh ..... gagging a little just remembering ...)

The second spot, the cause for worry, is a new tumor located directly behind his right eye, in the brain cavity. I said to the doctor (because in times of crisis I have the diplomacy and tact of a bull in a china shop) "so basically he has brain cancer now, is what you're telling us?" and the doctor responded with, "No, he does not have a brain tumor. He has a tumor in his brain."

OK, glad we got that cleared up.

Several things were discussed on Tuesday when we got the news. Then, a brand-new doctor came in today, and several different things were discussed. The different doctors are suggesting alternate plans, and not only are we not sure which plan is best, we're not even sure which doctor is in charge, or makes the decision, or has the plan we think we want. (This is the part where it would have been helpful had Blaine actually developed e.s.p. and asked the questions I thought of hours later .... but you know, since he DIDN'T, we're left wondering .....)

One doctor says Blaine really needs an MRI but can't have one due to the metal posts in his head, so instead he'll have a cat scan. The other doctor says having the MRI would be fine.

One doctor says it's most likely a metastasis of the same cancer that afflicted his sinus cavity and since radiation worked before, we should do that again.

One doctor says it might *not* be the same cancer and because treatment options would drastically depend on the type of cancer, a biopsy is necessary to determine. That means basically drilling a hole in the back of his head and going around to the front of the brain to the location of the tumor to get a sample to test. Then, upon determining cancer type, additional radiation, a different kind of radiation, or even chemotherapy might be an option.

A few questions Blaine and I have:

1. If you're going all the way in there to biopsy the tumor, why don't you just cut the damn thing out? I mean, it makes sense to me, but then again, I wasn't paying attention that day in neurosurgery school, so what the heck do I know?

2. We've heard previous mention of lifetime radiation maximum dosages ... is he getting close? Does it matter? Who would decide? Why is the sky blue?

3. We get it, we really, really do, that the nature of the beast is such that by the time a tumor is big enough to show up on a scan, so we can target it and kill it off with therapy, that often, enough time has elapsed that cancer cells have already potentially moved on and starting making progress elsewhere. The doctor said (and I quote) "it's like shooting rats in the galley .... you just keep shooting and hope eventually you kill the last rat before they leave babies behind to cause trouble." Perhaps not the most graceful analogy in the world, but it makes sense. But is there anything we can do, anything at all, to ensure THIS TIME is the final time and we get the last fucking rat?

4. How come one doctor says an MRI is ok and one doctor says it is not? As I understand it, an MRI is basically a huge magnet .... are the metal things in his head going to shoot out through his nose if he has one done? Or will his whole head shoot up and stick to the magnet?

5. What in the sam-holy-hell is the difference between a brain tumor and a tumor in the brain?

6. Did I really think that eating an entire box of Samoas girl scout cookies, and a sleeve of Thin Mints --- IN ONE SETTING --- (oh, yes, I did) was going to help last night? All it did was give me a terrible stomach-ache and cause me to wake up in a cold sweat and near-diabetic coma during the night. Truly, not one of my more brilliant moves.

Now, before any of you post in the comment section about what is wrong with these doctors and why are we getting conflicting advice and how are we supposed to make decisions ............... please understand that we have complete confidence in the medical team here. It's still a little unsettling to be treated in a 'new' place after being treated for five years with the same people in Georgia, but we like them. Their office and nurses and administrative staff have been nothing but kind and competent. Most importantly, the first round of treatment they suggested and administered --- worked. (see: currently dormant tumors in his cheeks and nasal cavity.) So we trust that the right decisions will be made this time as well, and that we'll be a part of that decision making process, also. It's simply that there is a medical TEAM taking care of Blaine ... so far, he's got one Head and Neck Oncology Surgeon on board, two Radiation Oncologists (and their two residents) considering the best plan, and as of this week, the "Brain Lab" people are coming on board. ("Brain Lab" ... makes me think of some mad scientist with crazy hair, rubbing his hands together gleefully and muttering wildly under their breath, doesn't it?) .... and that's just at this one facility.

The way they have treated Blaine, both as a patient, and as a human being, to date, has done nothing but earn our trust and respect. So please understand I'm not here complaining about the varying degrees of information we are receiving. It's simply that the TEAM hasn't come together yet and decided on the best possible plan. The waiting, for me, is the hard part. I want to know what are we going to do and when are we going to do it and how are we going to do it and what will happen when its done and then what we will do next and I want to know it YESTERDAY.

Several people asked in the comments for more specific information so they can pray more specific prayers. I'm all about that. It's just that for now, ideas are being bounced around and things are being considered and nothing has been totally positively determined and to be fair, I thought I'd take everything we know, and everything we don't know, and throw it out there in a big, giant, heaving, conflicting, confusing, vomitous mass of information.

Lucky you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bell Ringing

When Blaine had his radiation treatments for his second round of cancer, they took place in Seattle. You might remember (or might not because you know, time has passed and you have LIVES and what have you ...) that I intended to go with him but was unable, due basically to the greatest cluster-fuck of events, ever in the history of mankind. So I never saw the Seattle facility or radiation mask or treatment tables or anything like that.

This past fall, when he underwent radiation again for go-round #3, his new doctors and treatment facility were local, so I was able to go. I attended his consultation (with the oncologist with the sexy accent from New Zealand va voom!) and then went to the first radiation treatment as well. It was very surreal, to watch him climb on the table, and watch them bolt his head to the table with his specially-fitted Hannibal Lector mask that covered him from the top of his head down to his chest. Actually, it was kind of creepy and gross and Friday the 13-ish, but hey, as long as it works, right?

Of course, I couldn't be in the room when they actually zapped him with the radiation, unless I wanted to grow a second head or start to glow or anything. So I sat in the waiting area right outside the treatment rooms. On the wall behind me was a "Survivor Bell" or something like that. Basically, a hand bell attached to the wall with a sign over it that said something along the lines of "Ring this bell to celebrate your victory over cancer ....." You know, the same kind of bell they encourage you to ring when you've had good service at Long John Silvers ..... "ring this bell so you can say, you had some great fried fish today" ..... or whatever.

I didn't attend any more of Blaine's treatments because quite frankly, he didn't need me to. I kept waiting, thinking if he needed assistance I would go, but the entire six weeks of treatment, the side effects of the radiation never got so bad he couldn't drive himself there and back. It was almost half an hour there, and half an hour back, for a ten-minute appointment ..... and I had bon-bons to eat and soap operas to watch, so really, why should I go?

After his final treatment, he came home ..... fatigued, sore, relieved to be done. "Did you ring the bell?" I asked. "The end-of-treatment bell?"

"No," said Blaine, "I didn't."

"Why not?" I asked. "Aren't you glad to be done?"

Well of course he was, but like he explained to me ..... he felt, well, silly ringing the bell. And self-conscious, and perhaps a little gullible and overly optimistic. I mean, what if he had rung the bell the first time he finished treatment, in Georgia (ok, fine, a theoretical bell because there WAS no bell in Georgia) and then the cancer came back, like it did. And then what if he had rung it in in Seattle, and then it came back again, like it did. It would have been sort of embarrassing, you know? Like here he is, this giant douchebag, ringing a victory bell, knowing darn good and well the cancer cells could be spreading through his body at the very same moment he was ringing ??? Being diagnosed with cancer is bad enough --- being diagnosed with a cancer RECURRENCE sort of takes away your naivete' ....

Maybe they should call it a "Hopeful Bell" or something. Like, "I am done with this particular treatment and HOPE I never have to have another, so I will celebrate this specific victory by ringing the bell ...... because I am HOPEFUL that this is the end of my cancer battle."

Does any of that even make sense? Its a symbol of something we desire, but not something anyone can simply claim because they feel they deserve it. Wanting it; working for it; making your intentions known; none of that is good enough and quite frankly, that pisses me off.

Because in the long run, it's not up to us, whether the journey is over or not, and ultimately the bell is nothing more than a wish. And those of us who are perhaps more jaded than others feel hyper-aware of the reality that ringing the bell might prove to be nothing more than a wish, unfulfilled. And who wants to set themselves up for failure like that??? Who wants to be that douchebag? No one.


Blaine finished radiation in November, and had his three-month follow up this week. We got the results of his most recent pet scan a few days ago.

It's a stupid, stupid bell, anyway.

Q & A Session, February 2009, Part 3

Wow, three Q & A sessions in one month .... I must be running out of things to say otherwise.


Shara says: Your post makes me wish I did scrapbook. I have never tried.

I suffer from guilt re: the hundreds of photos I have of my family that seem to be scattered across the universe. I would love to learn- is it something that a klutz can learn?

Shara, I would highly recommend you find a local scrapbook store, or Hobby Lobby or Michaels, that offers a beginner’s scrapbook course. Go, and see if you like it before investing tons of money in supplies. I can promise you, though, if you *do* wind up enjoying it, that it’s an addictive hobby …. I have recently begun to invest more of my time and energy in finding places to crop, and new friends to crop with, and must say I feel happier than I have in a long time. While I’m not necessarily accomplishing huge sums of creative work, at least I feel the mess atop my scrapbooking table is no longer mocking me like it has ever since we moved here. And I'm getting little bits done here and there, and making a dent in the pile. Plus, you know, chocolate is usually involved, so it’s a win-win.


One of my best friends in the whole world, Kim, comments: I hope you know how much you were missed this year. It is ok though, since we will be doing this well into our 90's, every year! I am guessing this means once again the W's miss the x-mas lay out with their untimely Valentines cards (that oh. yeah. I should really be starting!). You really need to get a bit further two more weeks behind!

Kimmy, you silly girl. You know darn good and well that I save a spot for the infamous “W” Valentine picture-card …… no Escoe Christmas layout is complete without your handsome clan included!! Miss you!


Lisa L. asks: ...oooh..and the food you describe sounds yummy! A crockpot of meatballs....could you post the recipe?

Lisa, I’ll have you know I am a graduate of //insert fancy name// Culinary School and my meatball crockpot recipe is highly technical, extremely scientific, researched by the most talented chefs anywhere, balancing a cacophony of the freshest ingredients, made with loving care by my highly skilled hands ….. (you’re not falling for any of this, are you?) The recipe is so easy I’m embarrassed: One bag frozen meatballs (you didn’t think I made those things from scratch, did you?) in crockpot. Dump over that one bottle chili sauce and one container grape jelly. Heat on low for 3 – 4 hours. The end. Shamefully simple, but good! Another way I like to make them, more for dinner as opposed to appetizer, is to use (yep, you guessed it) a bag of frozen meatballs, and include in the crockpot two cans cream of mushroom soup, a box of onion soup mix, and enough milk to keep it moist. Serve over rice or noodles.


Dixie asks: It's a good thing you like that school! Do any of the teachers have kids of their own?

Dixie, tons! I would say there are more teachers there *with* children attending than teachers without. One of Kendrie’s best friend’s mom was Kellen’s 4th grade teacher, and she has three or four other teacher's kids in her grade … Kellen has five or six in his grade as well. When you add in not only the teachers, but the para-professionals, specialists, and other school employees, the number just gets larger. Personally, I think it makes for a wonderful environment, where more adults are vested in getting to know more kids, because we see one another socially, and outside of school in sports and other activities as well. Of course, it can also make things awkward, when your son’s friend’s dad is your nephew’s basketball coach and the principal, and he calls you into his office, and you assume it’s because one of your fabulous children MUST BE getting an award for their fabulousness, but it’s actually because they are being suspended. (not that I would know anything about that, ahem, thank goodness THAT’S over.)


Marey says: Snow-day shmo-day...the only day we got off school was for the 1989 earthquake...and the teachers still had to come to work!

Marey, I can top that. Blaine and I lived in Minot, North Dakota, for four years. That means we suffered, endured, barely lived through four winters there, only a few miles from the Canadian border. Did they close schools for the 10-feet snow drifts we had every year? No. Did they close schools for the blizzard-like conditions? No. Did they close schools because of the roads? No. Did they close schools for the bracingly low temperatures? No. The entire time we lived there, they closed school one time, for one day --- because the wind chills had reached 100 degrees BELOW ZERO and they were worried the kids standing outside at the bus stops would get frostbite.

Now, having moved to Oklahoma, I whine when the temperature is below fifty. Clearly I am turning into a wimp in my old age. But in all honesty, the reason they usually close the schools here is not the snow, but the ice on the roads. I think they assume it is safer for the buses and cars *not* to be out driving when everything is so slick. We don't have any kind of road crews to work on the streets, so it typically stays icy until noon-ish, when the temps rise and it melts .... then each evening the temps fall and it ices over again. Normal vicious circle around here after a winter storm!


Lori asks: I love to read your blog- oh - i am going on a cruise to Alaska in June with my mom - Ya got any advise??

Lori, yes. E-mail me privately at I've got TONS to tell you; too much to bore everyone here.


Urban Blonde says: When you mentioned cat and anti freeze and missing in the same post I have to wonder... If cats get sick they will often wander off to a quiet place. Check all the bushes, sheds etc. Good Luck!

Believe me, I worried too when I first realized I was leaking anti-freeze. Hey, I’ve read “Perfect Match” by Jodi Picoult and knew exactly what could happen! But Blaine cleaned up the puddle immediately, and it had been almost two weeks from that point that Blackie had disappeared, so I knew we were in the clear. Whew, I’m long-removed from my days of putting up house-hold cleaning products and locking cabinet doors to keep my kids safe …. Never thought I’d have to worry about a stupid stray cat in my garage!


My new scrapbooking buddy (even if she doesn't eat as much chocolate as I do) Alisa, whose kids also go to the same school, asks:

are you saying any of this in jest?
just a tiny bit?
if I could type small I would- and I would say that I really like the dress up days and the projects with the kids- and then hope you don't hate me-
the kids do most of it themselves and its fun when they want to do it, not so fun when they don't-
last week many tears were shed over #2's project but it all worked out in the end.

Alisa, I’m about 95% in jest. The other 5% is just amazed by the fact it never seems to end! Thank goodness we *can* recycle some costumes …. Kellen’s book character this year (Tom Sawyer) is going to look **coincidentally** very similar to his Oklahoma Land Rush Day character from last year. And Kendrie wants to dress up like Jigsaw Jones from “The Case of the Missing Hamster”, so pretty much a sweatshirt, ball cap, and notebook is all I have to manage. Brayden was in the Talent Show last Friday but thank goodness didn’t need a costume. So I think after the Book Character Day all I have to worry about is Brayden’s dress for the Spring Banquet. Other than that, we just *might* be in the clear for a while. But yeah, 95% in jest ---- deep down, I don’t mind so much.


Ginny asks: Going thru the drive-thru the other night, they asked if I wanted to buy a sticker for $10. This sticker would give UNLIMITED Route 44 drinks for an entire year for only 99cents each. can order twenty at a time, every day of the year if you want. I nearly passed out. Summer and the Sonic slush go hand in hand in my house. My next thought was you. lol Did you already know about this wonderful sticker? If not, I had to give a heads up!

Ginny – "GET OUT!!!" (GASP! SHOCK!! OUTRAGE!!!!) How come we don’t have this here??? I would buy one and have it permanently stitched to my forehead! Oh my gosh, do we have this here and I just don't know??? Steve --- STEVE!! Are you listening???? You have this power ----- please get us these cards locally! Like, yesterday! (although, actually, I would be one of the customers who totally abused it and used it every single day, probably more than once, and maybe it's not such a savvy financial decision for you, after all.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SPT Challenge Feb 24

As per: Lelly's Musings, the SPT Challenge for February 24 is as follows:

Self portrait "I am saying 'I love you' when I ......."

Well, I think it's pretty clear I'm saying it when I agree to buy a fire safe box and a kitchen sink for my anniversary.

But in case not, then to be honest, I already said it, like this.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The excitement never ends around here

Kristie: So I was at Wal-Mart yesterday* and I noticed they have some good-sized fire and water-proof safes like we were talking about getting. You know, since I've got our small one filled up with photo cds and the one with the "important papers" really isn't anything more than a metal box. What do you think?

Blaine: You think we should buy the bigger one?

Kristie: Well, yeah, I think we probably should. It was almost $200 .... I was thinking we could get it for our anniversary gift to one another.

Blaine: Um, really? For our anniversary gift?

Kristie: Well, I realize it's sort of a *practical* gift, but we need it and it's too much money for me to take out of our "other" account this month.

Blaine: Well, yeah, I guess we could get it for our anniversary.

Kristie: What's wrong? You don't sound very enthusiastic. Do you want to do something special for our anniversary? Something less sensible, less boring? Something a little more sentimental and loving???

Blaine: No, it's just that for our anniversary this year, I was going to spend the money on a new stainless steel sink for the kitchen.

It's a damn miracle we don't burn this house down with our flaming hot romance.


*Can you believe the tornado that ripped through here a few weeks ago and tore a hole in the roof our our local Target apparently caused enough damage that the store is STILL closed?? And rumor has it they won't re-open for NINETY DAYS?!?!??! And ok, yes, it's great timing for my 2009 Finance Resolution, seeing as how if I can't go to Target I can't actually SPEND ANY MONEY in Target, but still. Ninety days??? I feel a little weepy inside every time I think about it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A day in the life ...

Barley: "Seriously. Have you ever seen anything as cute and lovable as me? Say it. Say it out loud, that I'm the most precious thing you've ever seen."

Barley: "I am playful and full of energy and how could *anyone* not want to be my bestest, bestest, very bestest friend???"

Blackie: "You are a waste of oxygen and I mock your vapid playfulness. Please go away you stupid creature, and leave my new family all to me, as the clearly superior animal that I am, the way God intended it."

Barley: "Come on! We can totally play together! I'll even share my toys and wag my tail and pant excitedly to show you my friendliness! And if you really want, I could chase you and jump on you and knock you down and slobber on you, just like I do the human people in this house!! Please?! Please?! Pretty-pretty-prettttyyyyyyyyyyyy pleeeeeeeeaaaaaaaassssseeeeeeeeeeee?!?!?!?!?"

Barley: "Hey, here you are! I was looking for you in the living room to show you my new chew toy and you disappeared ..... what are you doing here in the bedroom? Wanna play? Huh? Huh? Do you, do you, do you????"

Blackie: "I am warning you, miscreant. You are venturing far closer than you have the right. I prefer never to see your goofy face again. See the mighty cat teeth --- consider yourself warned."

Barley: "Hey, look! You're smiling at me! We're going to have great fun and get to be life-long friends ..... I just know it!!!"

Blackie: "I can't take it any more, you stupid, demented dog! Your kind is an affront to humanity and I will use my superior cat paws to put you in your place!"

Barley: "Oh, shit. He's going all ninja-cat-warrior on me."

Blackie: "I will batter your stupid, ugly dog ears, until you get it through your thick skull that I am better than you, since you clearly don't hear me telling you to LEAVE ME ALONE!!!"

Blackie: "And then I will batter your stupid, ugly dog nose so you quit sticking it in places that don't belong to you! How DARE YOU touch my silky, heavenly fur and sniff me with that disgusting snout? Surely by now even someone as pathetic as you will get a clue."

Barley: "That hurt, man. That hurt me, real bad. And I don't mean my nose .... I mean it hurt me --- inside. Despite my slobber and rough-housing and muddy paws everywhere, I'm still a sensitive soul .... with feelings. Why does that evil cat have to be so mean???"

Barley: "I think I'll just sit here with my human person and chew on some shoes to make myself feel better. While I'm at it, can anyone tell me why the human people have so much trouble putting away laundry? Every time I come in here to chew on shoes there are all these tempting clothes in baskets but I get in trouble for eating any of it. What's up with that???"

Barley: "And listen to me, cat creature, I know some day I will be triumphant and you will give in and be friends with me! Who can resist adorable-bandana-ness as this??"

Blackie: "Oh, for pete's sake. I'm hiding under this bed until that dense creature figures it out and LEAVES ME THE HELL ALONE."

PS. For the record, the 3am games of tag-you're-it-no-tag-you're-it in my bedroom --- and sometimes even on my bed --- WHILE I'M SLEEPING IN IT --- tell me that the two of them are actually becoming very good friends.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I am in Facebook Hell (stop)

Send help (stop)

Or Oreos, really, would be just as good.


Speaking of Oreos, I went to the gym again this morning (I know! Twice in one week! Or as a friend asked me this morning, upon seeing me in work-out clothes, has hell frozen over????) There, I ran into another local mom I know. Now, this mom hires herself out as a personal trainer for good reason. She is fit, adorable, has a killer bod, and runs marathons on a regular basis. If she wasn't so stinking nice, I would be annoyed with her. As it is, you can't help but like her (and envy her toned thighs, all at the same time.) Those of you reading this locally know exactly who I'm talking about.

When I walked into the gym she said hello (with a look of surprise and bewilderment in her eyes, I'm sure, at the fact she's never seen hide nor hair of me in the gym) and asked what I was up to. I told her I wasn't sure if I was going to walk around the track, or on the treadmills ..... I walk faster than most of the older people there (but not the pregnant ladies, obviously) and thought it might be easier to just stick to the treadmill instead of passing people and being forced to say, "excuse me, excuse me" over and over for half an hour. Hmmmm, which to do, which to do.

She said, without batting an eye, "Why not do both?"

And I realized ---- THAT is why she is a size zero and I am a pack mule. MY line of thought was wondering which would be less work; HER line of thought was to simply do both.

Something tells me SHE won't be vacationing in Antarctica this summer with me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SPT Challenge Feb 17

SPT Challenge for February 17:

Take a self-portrait about "the first thing that attracted me to you ......"

I met Blaine when I was 18 years old. (Almost 19, but hey, who's counting?) He was an older, wiser, more mature, 21 year old college student; ROTC member. So what attracted me to him the most? Was it his good looks? Charm? Winning smile? His love for deep, philosophical conversations? His interest in the world around him? His care for others? His sense of duty and honor? His integrity? His determination to put himself (successfully) through college? His self-discipline and love for the military lifestyle? Wonderful interpersonal skills???????

Hell, no! It was his awesome shoulders and amazing biceps and pecs!!!

(Hey, I'm just being honest here --- just LOOK at these broad shoulders --- YUM! And you should have seen him without a shirt on!)

His muscular legs, honed from playing years of baseball, crouched in the catcher's position, was a close second.

Lest you think I am completely shallow and vapid, let me assure you that beyond the physical, I *did* appreciate the finer things he was able to bring to my life ..... like the fact he was legal, and could buy us beer on the weekends.

Good to know I had my priorities straight.

To see more spt challenges, go here.

Really? A pregnant lady?

I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized that our summer vacation is coming up .... much sooner than I expected. Then I looked in a full-length mirror and realized .... this is not a good thing. My vacations the past two years have involved jackets and hats and gloves, oohing and aahing at beautiful glaciers in the chilly northern Pacific waters off Alaska.

This year, unless I can convince my children that filming a documentary about polar bears and penguins in the Arctic is more fun than snorkeling in St. Thomas, I'm afraid I'm going to be forced to put on a swimsuit.

In public. (shudder)

To that end, I decided today was the day. The day to reclaim my body and whip it into shape with some healthy eating habits and exercise. I would have decided yesterday was the day, but I went to my sisters and she had a bag of those new cheesecake Hershey kisses, have you had those? Yum!!! I ate about thirty. So clearly, *today* would have to be the day.

I went to the gym, checked out a clicker thing, and started walking. Two laps warm up, then into my fast-stride-but-I-only-jog-when-I'm-passing-people-because-heaven-forbid-I-actually-RUN mode. I felt strong; I felt determined; I felt skinny already.

Well, not really because I pass these tall windows all the way around and I can see my reflection and CLEARLY I am not skinny, if I was, would I be at the freaking gym????

But I felt good about myself.

Until a lady speed-walked past me.

She was pregnant, and going faster than me.

Pass the stupid Hershey kisses; I'm calling the tourism board of Antarctica.

PS. My answer to Mind-Bender Monday is ..... it depends. If I'm driving in my car and want to sing along, then I vote SH because he has a better voice and I think musically, they were better with him. But if I'm at a party, drinking trash-can punch (not that I would do that) and playing my air guitar, then defintely DLR ... pretty much anything off 1984.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mind-Bender Monday

This weekend I was listening to the "Top 40" playlist I have set up on my ipod, and coincidentally, the following two songs played in a row:

"Dreams" by Van Halen
"Jump" by Van Halen

Clearly, that bodes the earth-shattering, thought-provoking, burning, deep, philosophical question for Mind-Bender Monday:

David Lee Roth, or Sammy Hagar?

And why???

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Q & A Session, February 2009, Part 2

Lorianne asks: I too have the rebel camera. I was just wondering if you have any tips on taking your own passport pictures. Is there anything I have to make sure I do/don't do in order for them to be acceptable?

Lorianne, I had read on several websites that taking your own passport photos was an easy, much CHEAPER way of getting the pictures, so I decided to try it. Online recommendations simply state to have the person stand in front of a white, or off-white background. The finished photo needs to be two inches by two inches, with their face and shoulders taking up approximately one and a half inches of the space. Didn’t sound too complicated, so I gave it a go.

My complaint about our new house (Just how long will I keep calling it “new”? We’ve been living here almost a year and a half!) there is that there is CRAP for natural lighting in this house. I don’t know if the original owners were allergic to sunlight or something, but we have very few windows in this house, and basically none that provide nice natural light in a convenient location for candid-yet-carefully-arranged photography. Plus the overhead lighting in the house is inadequate, as well. Hence the reason every single picture I’ve taken inside since we moved here has been dim and blurry and underexposed. Also hence the reason I feel like I live in a freaking cave and am probably clinically depressed from Sunlight Deprivation Disorder or whatever that winter-time ailment is --- but that’s another blog post, for another day. Back to the passport photo conversation!

I had the photos printed at Wal-Mart, for simplicity sake. My photos were underexposed, as my indoor photos usually are here, and I wasn’t happy with how they turned out. I was worried we would go through the hassle and expense of applying for passports for the kids, only to have them returned due to lousy pictures, and then would have to reapply, and what if we run into a time constraint, and then our summer vacation is ruined because gasp! we can't get passports!!! and then the cruise ship leaves us behind in Haiti!!! and we can never return to the United States!!! (more over-imagination drama ....) so we caved and took the kids to the local Wal-Greens to have the pictures taken there. We paid eight dollars per child (as opposed to the twenty cents for developing at Wal-Mart) and if possible, the Wal-Greens prints were even crappier than the ones I took. VERY low-quality images – I was completely unimpressed. But at that point we had already paid for them, so, what are you going to do??? If I had it to do over again, and a few extra weeks cushion in the time-frame, I would definitely do my own.


Sportzmom asks: Love the coffee filters for the lace on the cuffs...great idea. Now, I'll just have to remember it the next time I need a costume! Hey, can you still get caffeine free diet dr. pepper? They don't sell it around here anymore.

Dear Sportzmom, OK, the breeze you just felt ruffling your hair way up there in Maryland was the wind-stream current from the GASP OF SHOCK AND OUTRAGE that I just took down here in Oklahoma! What!?! No caffeine free Diet Dr. Pepper?!?!?! Truly, that is a travesty. I am thankful to say it is still sold here, and just the mere thought that I couldn’t get it is enough to make me a little weak in the knees. In fact, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to sit down for a moment and collect myself.


Diana in Louisiana says: I'll say it again--- Your school is SO, SO cool!!!!!! Any ideas on class treats for a 100th day of school party or 100 items that can fit safely in a 1st graders book bag?

Um, Diana, I’m guessing that it took me so long to respond to this that your 100 Days of School has already come and gone …. If not, are you responsible for the entire class, or just one small portion? My kids classes have always done a collective grab-bag of goodies … one kid brings 100 cheerios, one kid brings 100 mini-marshmallows, one kid brings 100 raisins, etc. If you had to bring 100 for the whole class, you might consider mini-muffins, or donut holes, or even cookies. Anything you could buy pre-packaged would probably wind up getting expensive …. You know, I just realized that our new school (Just how long will I keep saying “new” school, along with my "new" house? They’ve been going there almost a year and a half!) doesn’t seem to celebrate the 100th Day of School --- or perhaps only celebrates it in the lower grades. Well for goodness’ sake, let’s not tell them, or Lord knows we’ll have to come up with a costume of some sort.


Marey says: I think as a member of the PTA you should implement a teacher dress up day...ya know, since they like it so much!

You know, I’ve got to admit, the teachers are usually right there, dressed up alongside the kids. Now, whether it’s because they *like* it, or do it under duress, I have no idea …. But here’s a photo of Brayden’s 3rd grade teacher during this year’s Vocabulary Parade Day:

She is “Jerry Atric” Ha! Get it? Geriatric?!?!? Woo-boy, that cracked me up. But not as much as when the librarian showed up with a belt wrapped around her waist, and a doll hanging off the back side. What was she? A "babysitter"!!! Ha!!! The fourth grade teachers dress up for the Land Run, the fifth grade teachers dress up for Colonial Day. All told, I’d have to say they’re pretty good sports about it.


Leesa and Tammie both ask: Have you thought about shooting in RAW? You would have a lot more ability to adjust those underexposed or overexposed photos in photoshop then you do with a jpg.

You know, I’ve heard this recommendation on other sites, and have considered it. The main thing that is stopping me is that I have no idea how to do it. And I'm unclear about whether the photo editing would be different. And I am not sure how to convert them back to jpg afterwards. (Clearly, I am too lazy to read my camera’s manual, don’t you think?) Another reason I hesitate is because I save and print out so many of my photos, I’m leery to do anything that requires me to take the time and re-save tons of images later --- guess this is where that fabulous batch-processing command would come into play. I suppose it’s a matter of …. Will the improved photoshop tweakability balance out the time required in the additional step? Or would there *be* much time required in additional steps??? Hmmmm. I’ll get back to you on that. I’m definitely going to consider it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Well, when you put it that way ...

When Kendrie got up this morning and got herself dressed for school, I noticed what she was wearing: a black undershirt, light blue t-shirt, and royal blue sweat pants with a red stripe. I noticed because I knew they were having Valentines parties at school this afternoon, and that I would be there with my camera ... but of course, hoping she would wear a pink and red striped Hanna Andersson dress with matching tights was out of the question. She was ensconsed comfortably somewhere between "what not to wear, elementary school version" and "street urchin" .... but she was dressed, which was most important, so I decided not to fight it.

Tonight, we went out to dinner with our family for Brayden's birthday. (More on the fact my baby turned twelve years old today later .... for now, I'm too busy rafting down the river of denial to talk about it.) Kendrie asked me to take her to the bathroom at the restaurant, and when we got inside and I took a good look at her, I realized she had changed clothes.

One of my pet peeves is my kids changing clothes for no reason. Because Heaven forbid they hang anything back up and wear it again ... oh, no. Straight into the dirty laundry it goes. My mantra is: "Do you think I do laundry for the fun of it???" and my kids have had it burned into their little brains at this point in their lives, but still, with no real success.

I noticed Kendrie's change of clothes, and was about to launch into my lecture for the million and ONE time ......

"Kendrie, why did you change clothes before dinner? What was wrong with the outfit you had on? Do you think I do laundry for the fun of it?"

And she looked at me, like I was clearly clueless (which if I am, it's only because these kids have sucked every brain cell out of my head) and replied ....

"Mom. The other outfit didn't match."

Her new outfit??? A white undershirt, gray and purple t-shirt, and navy blue sweats.

So, yeah. I guess when she puts it *that* way ...... clears everything up, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dear Local Camera Store,

Updated to add: Since a few of you have asked, I bought an 85 mm 1.8/f lens. Its odd to me because there is no zoom .... I am constantly trying to twist the lens to zoom in or zoom out and probably look like I have a tic. Plus I have to stand pretty far back .... normally I stand under the basket and I think this lens might require me to actually stay in the stands. I'm not sure yet about settings or which mode I'll use, but my nephew has an indoor game tomorrow and Kellen has an indoor game Sunday, so hopefully I'll get it figured out and take some good shots at *some* point during the weekend! I would have loved the lens Jim mentions in the comments below, but it was a little more than I could bring myself to spend ......... you know, what with our new (finger quotes) budget that we're on. PS. budgets suck. I should just buy the lens and feed my kids ramen noodles for three months.

Dear Local Camera Store, it should come as no big shock to you that you pretty much have a monopoly on the camera market here in our town. Sure, we can buy cameras at Best Buy or Circuit City or Wal-Mart or whatever, but once a person reaches the point of needing a high-end camera or specialty lenses and accessories, your fine place of business is pretty much it.

And that's ok, because you've made me very happy this past year. I purchased not only a new camera, but a new lens from you, and quite a few accessories to go with each. I thought we had a good relationship .... I thought (sniff, sniff) we had something special.

Something you probably do NOT know is that recently, I've ventured into the realm of indoor sports photography. Actually, "ventured" is possibly not the correct word. Stumbled and drunkenly lurched are probably better descriptions for the crap pictures I've been taking.

But! Last week at Kellen's soccer practice I met a dad from another team who was taking indoor soccer pictures, with the same camera as I have. I bolted over and practically knocked the man down casually sauntered over and asked him what kind of lens he was using. Come to find out, he had been struggling with indoor action photography as well, and had just purchased a new lens. A new lens, that he was having wonderful results with, and was happy to share that information with me.

SCORE!!! I just LOVE when life works out like that.

He told me about the website he ordered from, and my antenna immediately went up. I buy a lot of stuff online ... books, clothes, plane tickets, scrapbook supplies, etc. But I've always been leery of purchasing anything electronic, or with work-y parts, from an online store. What if it the work-y parts didn't work properly? What if it was defective? What if the online company wouldn't honor the return, or turned out to be a sham .... two guys named Leroy and Butch, selling stolen equipment our of their internet car trunk, or the internet version of a pawn shop. (Am I the only one who worries about this???)

So, my dear, dear, local camera store, I researched the lens online to make sure that was what I wanted. Then I came to you instead. And explained what I needed. And you smiled at me, and were happy to help me, because clearly our relationship is every bit as special to you as it is to me.

And then you tried to charge me $200 MORE than the lens cost online.

And when I hesitated, and mentioned how much cheaper it was online .... well, my little camera store, that was when your true feelings for our relationship became apparent.

Because you SNEERED at me. (OK, technically, it was your sales girl, but still ....) You shrugged your shoulders, made an ugly face, and said there was no way you would match that price -- Even though I didn't ask. But you said it in such an ugly way ..... truly, my feelings were hurt, and you embarrassed me.

So guess what? I went home, and took a deep breath, and ordered the thing online. And saved myself TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

The lens arrived today. It is in perfect condition, and from what I can tell so far, takes great pictures. I am considering making my next self-portrait Tuesday one of myself, sticking my tongue out at you. But that would be immature.

So let me just say, in a twisted way, THANK YOU for your sneerage. Without it, I wouldn't have had the nerve to break out of your small-town monopoly and venture out into this brave new world. I wouldn't have my new lens, and I wouldn't have this extra money. I'll spend my $200 wisely and happily .... possibly even in your store. Because I almost always like to kiss and make up, and I'm hopeful our relationship can be salvaged. If not, I guess I can always return to my new online boyfriend. But I'm hopeful we can be good for one another, again.

Sound good to you?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Going well so far ....

At the very real risk of jinxing things, I'm pleased to report that Blackie the Cat is settling into his new digs (which primarily, is the far left sofa cushion) without any signs of distress or anxiety.

Things we have not had:

A single accident.

A single episode of furniture scratching.

A single escape attempt.

Any problems wearing a collar and tag.

A single moment of howling or yowling or whatever it is cats are sometimes known to do.

Things we *have* had:

An extremely simple transition to the litter box, which tells me he was clearly housebroken, and someone's pet, in a previous life.

An extremely simple transition from nervous, skittish inside cat, to one who now hangs out on the sofa, napping, and sleeps on my bed for part of each night.

A few minor come-to-Jesus meetings with Barley.

Some 3am play time ... which is going to come to a quick stop, I'm telling you.

A bit of winsome gazing out the window, which tells me we are not in the clear yet.

For me, the biggest shock came this morning as I was walking through the living room and the damn cat ambushed me, jumping into my side, bouncing off again, and almost scared me to death. Blaine says he *thinks* the cat was trying to play ..... I say I must look like a very big mouse and he was on the attack. Either way, he about gave me a freaking heart attack. Is that NORMAL cat behavior????

"Hey, yo, peeps, thanks for all the well-wishes in my new home .... and thanks for having my back regarding the de-clawing. I'm on my best behavior for now and am happy they're not dragging me to the vet to have it done. Now, where the heck were you when someone stole my manhood in the earlier years?!?!?"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SPT Challenge Feb 10

Today's SPT challenge, courtesy of Lelly's Musings is part of her ongoing "Feel the Love February" (or something like that) challenge. Today's, specifically, is:

"I think it would be romantic to ......"

Can I just say, I've only been doing this challenge for three weeks now, so it seems a little early to complain ..... but blech. This challenge is especially hard for me because frankly, I don't have a romantic bone in my body. We've been married for twenty-one years ---- who gives two hoots about romance??? As long as the trash is taken out, I'm happy! Throw in a spontaneous vacuuming of the inside of my van and I'm delirious with joy!! Clean up the dog barf so I don't have to, and I will kneel at your feet and worship you forever!!!

Hmmmm. Perhaps I'm confusing romance with thoughtfulness???

Let's list, instead, all the traditional trappings of "romance", at least according to the marketing people at Hallmark, and see what we have:

1. Flowers. Are you kidding me? I am WAY too practical for flowers. Hello, in case you haven't noticed .... they DIE and then you THROW THEM AWAY. That's not to say I don't enjoy them when Blaine sends them .... but honestly, if he's going to spend fifty bucks on a gift for me, I'd much rather have a gift card to Target or Hobby Lobby or Bed Bath and Beyond. Providing me with an opportunity to shop guilt-free for even more picture frames or home decor in one of my favorite stores ?? ... now *that's* romantic!!

2. Chocolate. Ok, yeah, I love me some chocolate. But again, with the practicality. Don't waste money on the wrappings of a big pink heart-shaped box with crinkly cellophane, a bow, and six pieces of frou-frou fancy candy inside. You want to warm my heart via the candy route??? A jumbo-sized box of Milk Duds will do the trick, thank you very much.

3. Jewelry. Sadly, I'm just not a jewelry person. I wear basically the same one pair of earrings, alternate the same two necklaces, and either my wedding ring, or the band Blaine bought me for our fifteenth wedding anniversary, pretty much every day. I have some other jewelry .... about the best I can do is thinking to put on a bracelet once in a while, or maybe another ring if I'm *really* playing dress up. Remind me to tell you the story some time, about one of the worst days of my life, when I lost every single piece of jewelry Blaine had ever bought me, including my engagement ring, AND wrecked my car, all in one day. Ahhhhhh, good memories.

4. A candlelight dinner on the beach. Have I mentioned before that I'm not really a beach person, either? First of all, if you're at the beach, taking a walk in the sand, well, it's really hard to walk in. At least if you're an out-of-shape chick like me. And if you're in firm sand, it's probably sticking to your feet, which I hate. And I've never been on a beach, anywhere in the world, that the wind wasn't blowing in off the water at a kajillion miles per hour. So .... what? It's going to blow that sand all in my food? And blow the candles over and burn the tablecloth? And whip my hair in my mouth the whole time I'm eating??? And is it only me, or is it ALWAYS stinking cold at the beach at night, no matter the time of year?? So it will pretty much kill whatever ambiance we were going for with the romantic, candlelit dinner --- at least that's my opinion.

5. Watching the sunset (or sunrise) on the beach. See #4, minus the food part.

6. Wine. Ummmm, do wine *coolers* count? (clearly, I have no class whatsoever.)

I guess, depending on your perspective, Blaine is either to be envied because I'm so low-maintenance when it comes to romance, or pitied, for marrying such a stick in the mud.

You know, my idea of a good time is how he and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary ..... we hired a sitter, went to Blockbuster and rented a few movies, went to Dairy Queen and bought ice cream blasts, then parked our van in a parking lot and watched movies and ate ice cream together. Honestly, that was a pretty good night.

So maybe my personal "I think it would be romantic to ....." challenge for this week is nothing more than that:

I think it would be romantic to simply go out to dinner, just the two of us, with no kids menus or crayons or chicken fingers at the table. No grabbing a bite before or after soccer practice. A real, live dinner, where we can sit and visit and hang out and enjoy one another's company. Reconnect as a couple, and not just be "the mom and dad" who are constantly busy with work, chores, and chauffeuring children.

And then maybe grab some rented movies, ice cream, and find a parking lot somewhere.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Kendrie and I were driving home from the mall just now, where I had just purchased her a new pair of tennis shoes. NOT because she had outgrown her old shoes, but because Kellen had outgrown *his* old shoes and heaven forbid one kid get new shoes in this house and not the other two. (Seriously -- I think we have some "fairness issues" to work on .....)

Anyway! We were talking about birthdays and Kendrie mentioned that in only nine more birthdays it will be time for her to leave the house.

I started teasing her that no, she wasn't ever going to be allowed to leave.

This is how the conversation went:

Kendrie: "Of course I have to leave, I have to go to college."

Me: "No, you can live at home while you are in college."

Kendrie: "Well then I'm going to get married and leave."

Me: "No, I've already decided that you and your husband can live with us. You're never leaving."

Kendrie: "My husband isn't going to want to live with you!"

Me: "Oh yes he will. It'll be fine."

Kendrie: "Mom. We are going to have a lot better things to do than sit around with a bunch of old people, feeding you applesauce."

Did I mention I had just bought her a new pair of shoes? And THAT is the thanks I get???!?!!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Just One Dollar

Carpet Wavey Scratching Pad for upstairs: $29.99

Sisal Scratching Post with basket thing for downstairs: $49.99

Cat Pans with Swap-Out Liner doohickeys: $17.99

Fresh Scent Kitty Litter: $11.79

Cat Toy: $11.99

Cat Toy: $5.59

Collar: $3.99

Feliway Comfort Deodorizer Plug-In thing: $37.59

Petsmart Cashier: "Would you like to donate just one dollar to the local animal shelter to help homeless animals?"

Me: "I think I just did. One-hundred and eighty-two times."

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hail the Conquering Hero Returns!!!

A few PS's, written after the fact, in reply to comments ......

PS #1: Fortunately, UNLIKE US, Fluffy and Noodle's (who we found out were actually named Buddy and Madge) owner DID HAVE the sense God gave a goose and had a rabies tag on one of them. We kept them in our garage over night (another reason I was worried Blackie would never return .... what if he came back and the garage smelled like two strange dogs???) and then called the vet's office the next day. They gave me the owner's name and number, and he was here, gratefully, by noon to pick them up and take them home. As happy as he was to see his two dogs, believe me, *I* was happier to see *HIM* !!

PS #2: Re. declawing ..... wow. I had no idea. I have never had a cat as a pet my entire life. (Literally, in my entire life. Never. Not even a kitten as a kid. The only person who is LESS of a cat-person than me was my mom. No cats in our house growing up. Just a big, goofy boxer named Patty who I still miss to this day.) So truly, I had no idea about the de-clawing. I assumed it was as benign as having an animal micro-chipped ..... Although I know several families whose cats are de-clawed and they don't seem to have any problem, hmmmm. I read the articles you guys sent, and considered it. More than articles, however, I trust the opinion of Lauren, mom to Fergus, who I have "known" online for several years. The articles had me re-considering the procedure .... her comments sealed the deal. We will know, in a good-faith attempt, keep Blackie inside *with* claws, purchasing a scratching post (or two ... maybe one upstairs and one downstairs?), check into the scent-thing, and will place the slickiest blankets I can find on the furniture so that if the cat *does* try to claw and stretch he will slip off the furniture and fall on his fat little head. I am a FIRM behavior in behavior modification if it will help!

Plus, the other arguments are sound --- he might despise being indoors; he might not hurt the furniture like I assumed he would; the possible ramifications of the surgery bother me; with Barley around, it seems only fair to leave the cat one form of self-defense! (Barley LOVES him ..... I'm just not sure yet the admiration is mutual.)

So thank you, genuinely, for the information, oh Peoples of the Internet. I had no idea, and have been enlightened. I thank you, and Blackie thanks you. We'll give this indoor-cat-with-claws thing a go.

Although really, I'm not sure a stray cat can be considered a conquering hero --- but after seven days and seven nights, Blackie has come home!!!!!!!!!

(I seriously don't think there can be an overuse of the exclamation point at this time.)

We had tears, we had stress, we had wailing and gnashing of teeth, we had vivid imaginations gone horribly wrong. We also had three erroneous neighborhood sightings this past week --- one where a lady called after seeing the "lost cat" signs we posted, to tell me there was an extremely thin stray cat in her yard, and was the cat we were looking for mal-nourished? I think she was trying to find a polite way to ask if we actually fed the thing ..... I was able to reassure her that actually, the vet had recommended he LOSE a few pounds, so definitely not ours.

One when my sister called to tell us they were parked a few blocks away and had Blackie in their eyesight .... Blaine and the kids hurried over, only to realize the cat wasn't Blackie at all.

Later that same night I thought I saw him a few blocks away in the other direction, and again, Blaine and the kids rushed to the scene. Again, wrong cat.

In hindsite, we've discovered there is an inordinately large number of stray black cats in this neighborhood. And that despite living in my garage for the past year, technically, I wasn't exactly sure what he looked like. I guess when you've seen one black cat, you think you've seen them all.

Tonight, before bed, Kellen went to the back door to set the alarm. The back door and the door to the garage are in the same corner at the bottom of the stairs, and he could hear meowing coming from the garage. Disbelieving, he opened the door and viola! Blackie, asking to be let inside!

He's a few pounds lighter, but not terribly worse for the wear. He's either been fairly successful at digging in garbage cans this past week, or managed to wrangle hand-outs from a kind neighbor or two. And he didn't immediately fall upon the food and water in the garage, so I'm certain he's been fed somehow, somewhere.

The first thing we did was lock the pet-door so it no longer opens. Yeah, ok, maybe "freedoms just another word for nothin left to lose, And nothin aint worth nothin but its free........" Well, Blackie's freedom is OVER. We are not about to go through this again. Tomorrow we will manage collar, tag, purchase a litter box, and call the vet to schedule the de-clawing. And maybe this makes us cold, heartless humans who are nipping his Freedom in the Wild and Born to be Free spontenaiety, but I don't care. Instead, I'm going to tell myself it's called "responsible pet ownership" .... even if he doesn't want to technically be "owned". I can't take the stress of the cat going missing again, and I will willingly and cheerfully vacuum the cat hair of our "new, inside" pet.

Thank you to whoever suggested putting personal items outside to help the cat orient himself home with the scent. I don't know if that's what brought him home, or if he just got tired of roaming the streets (and no, he wasn't looking for a lady cat because *that* was taken care of before he ever came our way ....) but we're SO happy he's home.

(huge sigh of relief)

And I don't even *like* cats! Who could imagine I would be so stinking happy to see this one again?!?!?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I swear, I am losing my mind

My kids had two snow days out of school last week, and Kendrie has been home sick every day this week.

Clearly, these two factors combined have contributed to the fact I am losing my everlasting mind. I started Atkins again, yet have had pizza for dinner four out of the past six nights. Do you think I could be suffering from carb poisoning?

I’ve had to cancel four lunches with friends, but keep waking up in a panic that I’ve simply forgotten to show up.

I had a dream I forgot to make muffins for Bible Study this week, and woke in a panic (yet again) that I had forgotten. Then realized it was only a dream. Then actually forgot to make the damn things.

I went to the store to buy the muffin mixes at the last minute, but forgot to buy the food to cook the dinner I offered to take to a convalescing friend. Thank goodness I realized it a day in advance, so I can go to the store tomorrow, for dinner tomorrow night. Or perhaps I could just take her family some pizza, since I am on a first-name basis with the good folk at Papa Murphys.

I got invited to a crop this Friday night (I KNOW!!! WOOT!!!) and forgot to buy the food I offered to bring when I was at the store forgetting the dinner food at the same time. Obviously, I am suffering from oxygen deprivation at my local grocers.

I bought Blaine's birthday present but forgot to wrap it.

I called to get Kendrie a doctors appointment, couldn’t get in when I wanted, then had to turn around and call back the next day when she wasn’t any better. Probably not the best impression to make on the new pediatrician’s office.

I took Kellen to a birthday party tonight, and despite being 100% positive the parents said to pick him up at 7:30, when I showed up at 7:20 (look at me, woo-hoo, I’m early!) I realized I was the last parent to show up because they actually said 7:00.

My only hope at this point is that because I **suspect** its early-onset senile dementia, that means its really NOT early-onset senile dementia because I think if you have dementia one of the symptoms is that you don’t actually REALIZE you have dementia. So perhaps the fact I totally and completely ACKNOWLEDGE that I’m losing my brain simply means ……

What were we talking about?

Excuse me, I have some muffins to bake.

What the hell day is it?

Q & A Session, February 2009

Alyssa from Canada asks: Mrs Escoe, I was wondering if you could maybe answer a question for me and my and my brother are the same ages as Brayden and Kellen and I don't think its fair that my brother has the same privileges as me because I am older even if we are very close in age...Do you let Kellen have the same privileges as Brayden? Like I got my mp3 player when I was 9 so shouldn't he have to wait until he was 9 not 8? and the same bedtime and computer time and stuff? Thank you..

Alyssa, sweetie, I almost didn’t answer this question because to be honest, I don’t think you’re going to like my response. Now, let me say that in THEORY, I agree with your line of reasoning about older kids getting certain privileges before younger siblings. But, because it’s easier and I’m lazy, a lot of the times I must confess that we treat all three of our kids as a group, and enforce the same rules for all of them. They all got their Nintendo DS’s the same Christmas, and then got their iPods at the same time the next year. Also, they all have the same bedtime simply because the girls share a bedroom (and in Georgia, it was Kellen and Kendrie who shared a bedroom) and it’s just easier to put them all down at the same time at night. Now, before you think I’m a truly horrid unfair parent, let me tell you about the few places where we follow YOUR rules --- Brayden WILL get a cell phone one year before her brother. We’re still not sure when it will happen, but whenever it does, he won’t get one until he turns the same age. Also, Brayden has gotten to go to a few (well, ok, ONE) PG-13 movie with me. And, she gets one more dollar in her weekly allowance than the younger two. Of course, sometimes the age thing works against her, as well, considering she will have to quit trick-or-treating before Kellen does, and he’ll have to quit before Kendrie does. Like I said, that is probably not what you wanted to hear …. But! You presented your argument logically and respectfully, and I suspect if you approach your mom the same way, she will find at least one area where you deserve a slight advantage due to your age. Good luck!

Liz asks: Do you have fraud alerts on with the major credit checking companies?

Um, I guess the answer is no, since I have no idea what you’re talking about? But it sounds very important and helpful and I think I shall check into it soon.

Anonymous says: Invest in LifeLock - it's the best $10 a month you will ever spend.

Is this the same thing as a fraud alert? And isn’t this the commercial where the guy drives around with his social security number printed on the side of his truck? Man, I really need to check into this stuff.

Daisy Duke states: If you ever pay bills online while other online applications are open (perhaps the sharing function on iTunes, or another music downloading application like Limewire or something)sneaky internet-know-hows can actually get the info as you type it in. I have a few friends who have had this happen. I always close all other internet based applications if I am ordering something online or paying a bill online.

Actually, that makes a lot of sense. I’m not saying it DID happen that way, but I do listen to my iTunes application a lot online, and chances are good it was on when I paid bills online. The Mastercard company fraud department confirmed to me that the information was compromised online (how they can tell, I have no idea) and not lifted by a waiter, cashier, etc. So I will definitely make sure to close all applications from now on whenever doing any kind of financial transaction – thanks for the heads up!

Theresa says: I've found the best way to monitor my various checking/credit/savings accounts is using I found out about it from an Oprah mag, and have been using it for six months. It sends me weekly texts and emails on my balances, and I can look daily at one page to see all my accounts.

Clearly, I have been living under a rock because I had no idea these sorts of services were out there. Thanks for pointing it out.

Anonymous asks: I'm a longtime lurker and have enjoyed your blog very much. I too have thought that you and I could be friends except that we're so opposite - you hate Los Angeles (where I live)/I hate the country and suburbs; you're republican/I'm a democrat; you loved Twilight/it's been 4 weeks and I'm barely on chapter 7; you have 3 kids/I have one (although mine is the same age as your oldest and I see many similarities). Save for those differences and many more I imagine, I think we could be great friends! Anyway, I just wanted to say that I enjoy your blog and will continue to read it because you are so funny! In regards to your Barack Obama comment I would really like to know who you think would have been the RIGHT person to be the first African-American president?

Thanks for the nice comments --- someone else wrote to me privately to tell me my {racist, bigoted} comments reduced her to tears and she would no longer be reading my blog …. So seriously, thanks for agreeing to disagree with a healthy level of respect.

My personal choice for our nation’s first black President would have been Colin Powell. But, it should come as no surprise that I have a thing for men in uniform, right? (insert smiley face) Choice number two for me would have been Condoleeza Rice. Simply put, I feel both of those people have more high-level leadership experience than Barack Obama and could possibly have been better suited to the job. But, like I said earlier, he’s the President now and it doesn’t matter that I didn’t vote for him --- I still pray for him and his family every night, and genuinely hope he leads our nation well. Of course, my personal opinion is that his proposed $55 BILLION DOLLAR CUT in defense spending, specifically health care benefits for military personnel and veterans, didn’t exactly endear him to me this week. Or, like Blaine said, “Well, *that* didn’t take long, did it?”

Laura in La asks: Really important question here. How do you keep your teeth so white? Strips? Dental treatment? Super powers toothpaste?

That’s hysterical you mention this, because I was just looking at a photo of myself (Why, hello yesterday’s SPT challenge!) and thinking that I seriously needed to whiten them again. I had the impressions done at my dentist’s office a few years ago and had trays made. I use the high-strength whitening gel because you only have to wear it for an hour …. Originally I used the lower-strength gel and had to sleep in those trays overnight …. Talk about mouth-breathing, it was SO uncomfortable! But yeah, thanks for the reminder .. I’m going to go put my trays in right now.

Anne in GA says: I am in no way a seasoned photographer (trying though) but my husband bought me a Kodak Easyshare camera last year and it is amazing! So small, so easy to take pictures, and very easy for self portraits. We went on a cruise and the pics that we took on formal night were portrait quality. So if you're going for a smaller point and shoot camera, I recommend the Easyshare.

Anne, I’m glad to hear it! Selfishly, I’m glad to hear it because this is what we bought (shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!) Brayden for her birthday next week, and I have every intention of borrowing it for my next SPT challenge!!

PS. Hey, Alyssa, Brayden is getting a camera before Kellen --- does it count as a perk if its something he’s not interested in, anyway???

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

SPT Challenge February 3

Self-Portrait Challenge for February 3rd:

"I love it when you ...."

I love it when you clean up the dishes after dinner. Which thankfully, is every single night. Because of all the chores on the planet ... or at least in our house ... and Lord knows there are many .... that is the one I hate the most.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Good Intentions

So, now that the first month of 2009 is over, I think it might be a good time to sit back and reflect on how I’ve managed my New Years resolutions so far:

The Diet Resolution: Considering that I’m typing this one-handed because I’m holding a rice crispy treat in the other, and I haven’t worn anything but sweat pants for the past two weeks, I’d say this resolution isn’t going too well. I’m headed to a Super Bowl party tonight with tons of snack-y finger foods ….. maybe I’ll just start my diet again TOMORROW. (Famous last words of fat people everywhere, right?)

The Exercise Resolution: I have been to the gym exactly one time, and have walked on my treadmill exactly twice. In thirty-one days. Clearly, this resolution isn’t going too well either.

The Money Resolution:
This is actually the reason for my post today …. NOT because I’m going to talk about money or personal finance in one of those “boo-hoo me, I’m so broke, what is wrong with the economy” kind of ways. Just that I feel compelled to share with you how finance ideas are sometimes …. “Not quite what I had planned.”

When we moved here, our mortgage payment doubled. Blaine’s income …. Did not. We’ve managed fine …. It’s not like we’re eating beans and rice, or hawking my jewelry to pay utility bills or anything like that. But the past year we’ve had to face the fact that at the rate we were spending, we weren’t able to save as we would like. Or at all. And since retiring on nothing more than Social Security and the change in our spare change jar isn’t an idea that appeals to me (Call me crazy!) I decided sooner is better than later to put on the brakes and get back to our savings routine. To that end, I read several personal finance books during the month of December to settle on the best way for us to take control of our finances, both short term and long term. And, much to my surprise, I discovered this new-fangled gadget out there called a BUDGET. Apparently, people go on them and actually SAVE MONEY --- I know! Who would have thought?!?!

So, January 1st saw us implementing the new Escoe 2009 Monthly Budget Plan. And at the end of the month, when I looked back over our progress, overall, we did ok. I mean, Bill Gates isn’t exactly calling us for money advice, but we did alright. For the first month, obviously, some of our budgeted amounts were guess-work. I wound up within ninety-five cents of my budgeted amount for “groceries”, which I thought was pretty cool. We were within twelve dollars of what I guessed for “gasoline”, which also impressed me. We went slightly over on “clothes” because Blaine needed a new winter coat …. And slightly under on “entertainment” because of the day I canceled our Family Fun Night at the movies because my children were such brats.

The category that got us was “Other”. I knew full well we would need money to spend on ….. stuff. You know what I mean --- that “stuff” that doesn’t fall under “groceries” or “gas” or “entertainment”. Stuff like dish towels from Target, new printer ink, new folders for school, postage, my book for Bible Study, birthday presents, etc. And while there is probably a more scientific method for categorizing those types of expenses ….. my lazy self is comfortable with using the concept of “other” and calling it a day.

It was the OTHER-other that got us. The stuff I completely didn’t budget for ….. life’s little surprises, I guess.

The $70 oil change I got. Lesson there? Just say NO to synthetic oil.

The $50 vet bill. Lesson there? Even cats that sleep in your garage deserve to be healthy and receive round two of their vaccinations.***

The $239 mechanics bill. Lesson there? Be grateful you have a mechanic you trust when your (my) van starts leaking antifreeze all over the garage floor.

But still ---- we were doing ok, within our new budget. Even better, for the first time in months, I was able to put money back in our extra accounts …. the vacation account, the savings account, the new furniture account, etc.

Obviously, I am a financial genius and Wall Street will be offering me a job any day now. Lots and lots of self-back-patting-congratulations going on at this point.

Then, the mail came yesterday.


Apparently the escrow on this house, our primary residence, was miscalculated. The amount due? Almost $2500. Option A – pay it in full and our mortgage payment *only* goes up $150 per month. Option B – pay it out and our mortgage payment goes up $350 per month. Option C – well, I’m still waiting on option C to present itself. In my fantasy world, option C involves another letter from the mortgage company telling me the first letter was a mistake and a check for the $2500 is on its way to me.

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh. That’s not happening, is it?

So, much like the Diet Resolution and the Exercise Resolution, I think I must face the sad fact that the Finance Resolution didn’t go so well, either. At least not for January. Oh well, like Scarlett O’Hara would say….. February is, another month! At least until we get another letter from the damn escrow people.

***Sadly, Blackie the cat has disappeared. (Figures, doesn’t it, since in the last six weeks I’ve spent $300 getting him healthy.) Brayden is devastated. We installed a pet door in the garage door about eight (?) months ago and he’s been sleeping on an animal bed in there ever since, coming and going at will. We keep cat food and water in the garage for him, and most evenings we bring him in the house to hang out with us. Thursday night he enjoyed American Idol, sitting in Brayden’s lap, and then she put him back in the garage like she has every night for months and months. Friday morning I noticed he wasn’t on his pillow, and I remember thinking, “Hmmm. Blackie is up and about early this morning” because he almost ALWAYS greets us when we leave for school each day. Friday afternoon he still wasn’t in the garage, and we didn’t see him Friday night, either. By that point both Blaine and I were getting worried …. Brayden attended a sleepover that night so she didn’t realize he hadn’t come home until Saturday morning when she couldn’t find him. It’s now Sunday afternoon ---- we still haven’t seen him ---- neither his food nor water has been touched.

He doesn’t like people, so I can’t imagine he’d be in someone else’s house. We’ve scoured the neighborhood looking (although deep down I’m terrified we’ll find him on the side of the road …..) calling his name, putting up flyers, etc. I just don’t know what to do … he’s an outdoor cat, and we never bothered to put a tag or collar on him because, well, he comes and goes as he pleases, but he’s always come home at night. It never occurred to me that one day he might … not. My concern was that I wasn’t sure I really *wanted* a cat, not that I’d decide that I liked the guy after all, and then he would disappear.

Brayden has cried for two days; I feel terrible for her.

This morning Blaine and the girls walked the neighborhood again looking for him. They didn’t find him, but guess what they *did* come home with? Two stray dogs.

Who are now in my garage, lounging on a sleeping bag, with food, water, and toys.

Who my children have named “Fluffy” and “Noodles.”

I think they’ve seen the “Hotel for Dogs” trailer one too many times.

And although I’ve long considered myself a dog person, as opposed to a cat person, who would have thought that the day would come, when I would not only miss a cat named Blackie, but would be willing to trade the two stray dogs in my garage for him.

It’s almost as big a mystery to me as that whole “budget” thing.